A delicious birthday lunch, and a gorgeous cat.

Yesterday we met family and friends for my early birthday lunch at the nearby Oyster Box Hotel. The Ocean Terrace Restaurant which overlooks the Indian Ocean, is a favourite place of ours for eating out.

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There was a display in the foyer to celebrate the birth of baby George. The arrangement of red anthiriums was really gorgeous.

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There were seven of us for lunch, and we had a really jolly time. Before deciding on my choice from the menu, I decided to go and check out the traditional curry buffet. Durban has a big Indian population and curries are a speciality. There were about a dozen to choose from and I really would have liked to try each one, but it would have been an impossibility if I still wanted to fit into my skirt, so I only tried about six.  🙂

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Here’s my sister and I with the famous Umhlanga lighthouse in the background

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This was my choice of dessert, an ice cream sundae with halva, hot fudge chocolate and peppermint crisp. It was sooo YUMMY. The pic is a bit out of focus, but you get the idea. 🙂

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After eating all this food,  I suddenly found myself the lucky recipient of two cupcakes, complete with a birthday sparkler. I decided it would be wise to take these home and save them for teatime much later.

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All too soon, it was time to say our goodbyes for a whole seven months. I guess time will fly by as it usually does these days, and before we know it, we’ll all be together again.

Outside the front of the hotel is a really old rickshaw. At the beginning of the 20th century there were more than 2,000 rickshaw-pullers operating in Durban, and it was an everyday mode of transport. Today they are just a tourist attraction.

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It may look to you as though I am the only occupant here, but you would be quite wrong in that assumption. Having an afternoon nap, was the hotel’s resident cat Skabenga (meaning hooligan or vagabond in Zulu), who has made this luxury hotel his permanent home for the past ten years. It all started when he wandered onto the property as a stray, and was fed tasty and expensive seafood tidbits by the guests. He soon realised he was onto a good thing, and decided to stay. Can you blame him? He has a favourite couch, and takes daily  strolls around the hotel, enjoying the spoils that come with his status as the ‘main cat’ on the block. I was reading that Skabenga is renowned for his impeccable timing, and emerges every time there is a red carpet occasion at the hotel, such as the royal cocktail party held for Prince Rainier and Princess Charlene of Monaco, so I was rather thrilled that he was waiting there for me on my birthday. 😎  He certainly does look well fed, doesn’t he?

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I’m going to be rather busy packing and travelling for the next few weeks, but I’ll try and pop in on the blogs occasionally, and I’m sure I’ll do a post on the Centenary birthday celebrations once it’s all over.

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A beautiful mid winter’s day at the seaside.

Next week, we leave our seaside home in South Africa, to travel to England for hubby’s mom’s 100th birthday parties next weekend. We will spend about ten days touring around England, and then we are all going on a Rhine cruise to celebrate her centenary once again. From there, we will be going back to our home in Florida for six months.

Today was a beautiful mid winter’s day, so after my early birthday lunch, we decided we needed to take a walk along the promenade to have a last look at the beach and the waves, before getting down to the serious business of packing cases and preparing the house for our seven months absence.

It wasn’t very populated along this stretch,

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but a bit further along where the life guards are, there were a lot more people, frolicking in the waves, and sunbathing.

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The huge rocks are a very popular place for a bit of climbing around.

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A lone fisherman looked to be concentrating very hard, probably wishing for a fish to put on his plate tonight.

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These surfers were just chilling, waiting for the right waves.

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This family had set up camp here for the day, also hoping for a few fish to bite.

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Someone had rescued an interesting piece of driftwood, which looked to me like a weird sea monster.

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I’ve never noticed this palm tree in flower before. Isn’t it quite wonderful? I have no idea what it’s called, but maybe you can enlighten me.

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I think I’m going to miss this particular piece of paradise quite a lot for the next seven months, but it will still be here when we return in March, and there are lots of adventures to be had in the meantime. 🙂

A Family Centenary celebration coming up next weekend.

“Live your life and forget your age” ~ Norman Vincent Peale

A week this Sunday, hubby’s Mom in England will celebrate her 100th birthday, and all the family will be there cheering her on at her party for 140 people at the village hall. She’s always as bright as a button, and I’ve never heard her complain about getting old; in fact her age is a source of pride, and she’s so looking forward to getting the Queen’s telegram. Last week the woman in the cake shop, was very surprised when this sprightly woman walked in to order her own 100th birthday cake.  She has lived on her own, in her double storey, three-bedroom house since she was widowed twenty years ago, and does all her own cooking, with friends often calling in to have tea with her. Her favourite pastime is playing scrabble on the computer, and she is a daunting opponent in the competitions she takes part in. She bakes really delicious cakes, and until a few years ago, used to enter them in local competitions and often win first prize. For her 90th birthday, she baked and decorated a delicious Pavlova, and dozens of friends and relatives came to her party.

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Five years ago, she and my Mom accompanied hubby and I on a trip to the USA to visit our son and family. These two old ladies, were so excited and cheerful on the flight over from England. It was such an adventure for them both; the first time they’d been to America.

They walked their legs off all around New York city, taking in the sights and sounds and never complaining of being tired. The two of them shopped up a storm at Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, and Banana Republic.

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and posed for photos in Times Square.

We took the ferry across to Ellis Island where the new immigrants to the USA used to be processed, and then we were off to see the Statue of Liberty. What a thrill that was for them both.

A two-hour car journey took us down to Washington, where we stayed for a couple of days, going to see the White House, the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials and other historical sites. Once again, the two of them put their best feet forward and enjoyed every minute. They were like excited teenagers, and it was such a joy to be with them.

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The reason I’m telling you all this is that it’s my birthday on Sunday, and every birthday that comes around I remember how I sobbed my heart out at my 21st party, because I would never be young again. Hubby had to take me for a walk around the block to calm me down. What a silly young thing I must have been, with not a thought in my head for all the wonderful years still to come. I suppose I must have believed then that youth was the most important thing in life, but I was so wrong. Life experience is worth far more than transient youthfulness. The years since my 21st have been full of wonderful achievements with the addition to our family of two precious children and five gorgeous grandchildren. Talents which as a youngster I didn’t realise the value of, have been polished and used. I’ve watched with pride as my children grew up into responsible, successful and happy adults. Many people have come in and out of my life and taught me valuable lessons in the process. I’ve learned to be more caring for others’ needs and wants and have also experienced the love and selflessness of my family and friends towards me. It’s only as one grows older and hopefully wiser that one appreciates the benefits of not being young any more. Speaking for myself, I’m so grateful for the lessons learned over the years, and wouldn’t trade my life experience for the youth I had then.

It’s been said that “Life begins at forty,” but I believe that life begins every morning when you wake up, however old you are. You may have a job to go to; embrace it and be the best you can be. You may have children to care for; give this task the best you’ve got. A happy childhood is one of the most precious gifts that parents have in their power to bestow. Maybe you have a talent which needs a little nurturing to bring it to the fore; give yourself the chance to shine and let others have the benefit of it too. If you are already old, then share the wisdom of your years with those younger and less experienced than yourself. Life teaches us lessons for a purpose, and we can often find someone who can benefit from what we have learned. Aging isn’t something to be feared. As Gloria Pitzer, an American TV personality once said, “About the only thing that comes to us without effort is old age.” We can either plan for it by keeping ourselves healthy and fit and being wise with our financial planning for our old age, or we can just let it creep upon us unawares and give us a big fright when we suddenly realise that it’s too late to do anything about it.

Every day is a gift to us and whether we’re young, middle-aged or downright over the hill, we can always “Seize the day” and run with it. Well maybe not literally run, but you know what I mean. When you’re young, live your life as though there IS a tomorrow, so that when you’re old, you can live as though there’s NO tomorrow.

WordPress Photo Challenge: Fresh Guinea Pig

I thought I’d be a bit different for this ‘Fresh’ challenge. I do have pics of fresh fruit and veg, as well as delicious looking drinks, but what about really fresh meat?

It doesn’t come much fresher than this poor guinea pig in a market in Ecuador.

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These fat ones were still happily running around in their pen, waiting to be chosen for the barbecue.

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This one’s luck had just run out. 😦

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To see more entries for the ‘Fresh’ challenge, just click here.

‘Gone but not forgotten’ for Sonel’s Family B&W challenge

This week, Sonel’s B&W Photo Challenge is ‘Family’. I recently borrowed my mom’s old photo albums, as I had suddenly realised how little I knew of the generations of my family who had gone before.  As I turned the pages, I was filled with sadness, thinking of the many family members I should have known and loved, but never got to meet, and others with whom I had just a brief encounter. My Great Aunt Mary was my grandma’s sister. What a beautiful woman she was, both inside and out, and so loved by my sister and I. We used to have such fun with together, and were absolutely devastated when she died of cancer in the prime of her life, and our adventures with her came to an abrupt halt.

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When I was a child, we often visited my Great Aunt Sue and Uncle Harold. I remember that my eyes were always drawn to the photo which stood on their piano, of a handsome young man in army uniform. Alfie their only child, was one of the many young casualties of the second world war. The piano had been his, and was never opened after his death. Here he is in happier times, with his mom and dad.

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My mom has often spoken with pride of her older brother Fred. He was her hero, a great swimmer and competition diver, diving from the top of cranes in Hong Kong Harbour. The two of them were very close.

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He went down on an unmarked Japanese POW ship which was torpedoed by the allies in 1943. A Military Medal is little compensation for the loss of a beloved son and brother. His name is at the bottom of the first column on this segment of the Roll of Honour.

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I know I would have loved to have had him as my uncle. Maybe he would have taught me to play the trumpet, as well as how to swim, which is something I’ve never really mastered.

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This birthday card was the last correspondence mom received from him. I kept the flower in colour. I’m sure Sonel won’t mind, as it’s so pretty. 🙂

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Mom’s Uncle Bob is another man I would have loved to have met. He would have been my great uncle, if only he hadn’t also been killed in the war.

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My dad’s dreams of studying to be an engineer were shattered by the outbreak of war, and he was in his late teens when left his home and family in the Dutch East Indies, now known as Indonesia, to join the Royal Dutch Navy on the submarines. At the end of the war, he fell in love with my mom in England and they married. Because he hardly spoke any English, he was forced to settle for a very mediocre job as an electrician in a coal mine. Times were very hard, and any job was better than nothing, especially with a young family to support.

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My dad survived the war, physically unscathed, but he never saw his mom and dad again, and my sister and I didn’t get to meet our grandparents. My grandfather was killed by the Japanese, and my grandmother died when we were very young.

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As I pored over these faded B&W photographs, my heart was filled with sadness, thinking of how war can change the course of people’s lives for ever, and usually not for the better. These words spoken by General Robert E. Lee, are so true: “What a cruel thing is war: to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world.”

To see more entries for Sonel’s challenge, click on the icon below.

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Ailsa’s Travel Theme: Tilted

As soon as I saw Ailsa’s new theme, I thought of my header, which probably make you all believe that I spend my life reclining in a hammock between two tilted palm trees on the French Polynesian island of Bora Bora. I assure you that this is very far from the truth, although it would be very nice indeed. 🙂

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On the subject of palm trees, I really had a problem with this one in Punta Cana. No-one heard my cries for help as I tried in vain to push it back up again. 🙂

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Of course, one couldn’t possibly do a ’tilted’ challenge without including the most famous crooked edifice in the world, the seven storey high Leaning Tower of Pisa. The tower leans a little bit more each year and was closed for repairs in 1990, when it was leaning fourteen and a half feet to one side. Engineers worked to stabilize the foundation, straightening the tower only slightly to help prevent irreparable damage without taking away the uniqueness of the structure.

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Hubby made a valiant attempt to push it upright, but he just wasn’t quite strong enough.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed my fun photos for Ailsa’s theme. To see more interpretations, just click here.

CBBH Photo Challenge: I Spy with my Little Eye

For this month’s CBBH challenge, Marianne has asked us the question, “What do you spy with your little eye?”

I’ve shown you many photos of things I’ve spied with my little eye,; sunsets, beaches, family, animals, so I felt I had to think of something different for this challenge.

When we visited Lucerne in Switzerland, a few years ago, this dying lion, carved out of a wall of sandstone rock, really caught my eye. It was designed as a memorial for the mercenary soldiers from central Switzerland, who lost their lives while serving the French king Louis XVI, during the French Revolution. Mark Twain once said of this ‘Lion of Lucerne’ monument, “It is the saddest and most moving piece of rock in the world.” The inscription says, “To the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss. ”

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Here is the Apollo 11 command module and rocket at NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre, Cape Canaveral. What an amazing place to visit, and lots of wonders to spy with my little eye.

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In front of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan is the Grand Army Plaza, and this statue really caught my eye. It’s a golden equestrian statue of General William Tecumseh Sherman, sitting astride his horse, with ‘Victory’ in front, her one hand holding a palm frond, and the other pointing the way forward.

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My little eye also spied some amazing structures in Egypt. This is part of the magnificent Temple Of Isis originally constructed in Philae, but moved in the 1970’s due to flooding, after the completion of the Aswan High Dam, to a new island called Egilica. Even with modern technology and machines, it took nine years for this massive project to be accomplished. How on earth did the ancient Egyptians build such fabulous edifices using only the simple tools which were available at the time? There are many theories, but my favourite is that they must have had help from extraterrestrials. 🙂

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A much more down to earth spy, is this man and his donkey cart, which I spotted one autumn day as we were driving along a country road here in South Africa.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing some of the more unusual things I’ve spied with my little eye. and now it’s time to introduce you to my two CBBH featured blogs this month.

Cindy Knoke, who has a beautiful and very varied blog. Her photos are really outstanding. Her about page is headed “I blog, therefore I am.” I guarantee you’ll find many things to please your senses in her fascinating posts.

RoSy’s blog, “Sharing me, myself and I,” is also really interesting and varied. RoSy describes herself thus, “I have been told that I have an old soul. Perhaps that’s why I was born with grey hair.
I love life & try to be nice. But – sometimes emotions & others behaviors get the best of me.
Hey – I’m only human.” Now how could one resist such an intro?

Please pop in and say hello to them, and tell them I sent you. 🙂

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Wordless Wednesday: The Witches’ Market

If you’re looking for magic potions, dried frogs, llama foetuses, and other weird and wonderful good luck charms, the place to visit is El Mercado de las Brujas in La Paz, Bolivia.

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Now I’m off to create some of my own piano magic at our local mall.  See you later.

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WPC: The Golden Hour

This week, Cheri Lucas Rowlands tells us that “In photography, the ‘Golden Hour’ is the first and last hour of sunlight of the day, ” and challenges us to post photos taken during these golden hours.

I’m not often up and out for the morning’s golden hour, but I have on the odd occasion, been known to venture outside to witness the early morning sky.

Walking along our promenade early one morning, I caught the sun rising over the sea and bathing the sand in a wonderful golden glow.

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Sunsets are more my thing, and in Venice whilst waiting for our speedboat taxi from the hotel, I was mesmerised by this gorgeous gold and lavender sky, reflected in the lagoon.

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Travelling across the Venice Lagoon, the church of Santa Maria della Salute was sillhouetted against the golden backdrop of the setting sun.

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In Wyoming, the Little Bighorn Battlefield with the grave markers of the two hundred and sixty-three soldiers who were killed during ‘Custer’s Last Stand’, looked so windswept and sombre under the rays of the setting sun. We arrived just as the attendant was closing the gates, but he kindly allowed us in for just a couple of minutes.

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A much more cheerful golden hour was the one caught in New England when we went leaf-peeping in 2001. It had been raining for most of the day, and late in the afternoon, this double rainbow appeared.

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To see more bloggers’ entries for this challenge, just click here.